I Want Your Job: Charity Fundraiser

'You need a lot of perseverance'
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The Independent Online

Jack Miller, 25, is development manager at the Community Foundation for Merseyside. He raises money from companies who want to provide funding and support to local community projects.

As a fundraiser, what do you actually do every day?

There's the perception that fundraising is standing on a street corner shaking a beer can. But it's really much more professional than that. About half my time is spent out and about in Merseyside, meeting company donors.

Sometimes I'll give a formal presentation; sometimes we'll sit down and brainstorm ideas over a coffee. Then I'll follow it up with our grants team and outreach team, who are connected to 1,300 local charities, from a cancer sufferers' support group, to an environmental project run by pensioners with allotments teaching kids about growing vegetables and healthy eating.

Part of the fun is thinking up new sponsorship packages and creative ways to attract new donors. I also write press releases and organise marketing campaigns. One day I might be in the office, the next I might be doing a photo shoot, wearing a silly costume.

What do you love most about fundraising?

It's that buzz that you get when someone says "yes, we'll give you money". It can take quite a long time to get a donation signed off by a company - so there's a real feelgood factor when you know that a local group that needs the money is going to benefit from it. There's also the personal satisfaction of developing a relationship of trust with the donor, when a company is prepared to trust you to handle their charitable funds.

What's difficult about the job?

The flip side is when you don't get the money in, or when the relationship you're trying to build with a donor hasn't worked out. At the end of the day, we're working to targets. Some people will turn us down for funding, if what we suggest doesn't fit in with their aims. But really, there isn't much that's bad about it - I love my job.

What tips would you give to someone thinking about a career in fundraising?

My advice would be to research it as much as you can. There are thousands of charities out there, from huge national charities to small local organisations, so think about what kind of charity you want to work for. I came to Merseyside for university - I built roots here and had an attachment to the area, so after I finished I realised I wanted to cut my teeth in a local charity. Think about your strengths - whether they are in writing applications for funding; marketing; or people skills.

What sort of qualities do you need to be an excellent fundraiser?

You need a lot of perseverance. It's not easy to just get money - you need to plan and build long-term relationships. It doesn't happen overnight, so you have to think strategically.

You might put in six months of legwork and find it doesn't pay off, but although you might not get money, you could still get contacts. You also need to be able to relate to people, to find common ground and build trust.

Above all, you're dealing with people and constantly thinking what you can do to make the donor happy and benefit the charity. And you need to be patient and accept that not everything you do will come off. The tough part is being able to be blunt, and judging how and when to ask for a donation.

What's the salary and career path like?

A typical starting salary for a charity fundraiser is around £18,000 a year, with the potential to earn up to £80,000 if you're managing the large fundraising departments of national charities. You could also do corporate or events fundraising. I started as a fundraising officer and I'm hoping to progress to a managerial post, so I'm working on a certificate in fundraising management from the Institute of Fundraising.

For more information on the Community Foundation for Merseyside, go to www.cfmerseyside.org.uk. For details of professional qualifications and careers in charity fundraising, go to www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk